UNLICENSED: Driver blows under the legal limit.
UNLICENSED: Driver blows under the legal limit.

DIY breathalyser doesn't cut it

KARYN LEE WELLS thought she was doing the right thing, but she lost her licence anyway.

Wells, 27, of Goonellabah, fronted Lismore Local Court magistrate Robyn Denes to plead guilty to drink-driving, but said she had gone out of her way to keep from going over the limit, even using a breathalyser device at Mary Gilhooleys to check she was under before she went home.

In a statement to the court, Wells said on the night of April 25 she had carefully spaced her drinks, had plenty of water, danced and stopped drinking nearly an hour-and-a-half before heading home.

Her lawyer, Ben Cochrane told the court his client had even breath-tested herself before going home, using a breathalyser at the pub.

On the way home, Wells was stopped by police for a random breath test. She said in her statement she was told she was just under the 0.05 limit and would have to go to the police station for a second test to see if the reading went down.

Instead it soared to 0.095 and Wells was charged with mid-range drink-driving.

Mr Cochrane argued his client had tried to do the right thing and should be let off with a good behaviour bond.

However, Magistrate Robyn Denes rejected that, backing a prosecution assertion that Wells breath-testing herself before leaving the pub suggested she knew she was close to the edge.

“Relying on an alcolyser at Mary Gilhooleys is the same as saying ‘I think I’m right to drive’,” Ms Denes said.

“The bottom line is at what point do people take responsibility for the fact that they are skating on that edge.”

Ms Denes said the only way to be sure of being under the limit was not to drive after drinking at all.

Mr Cochrane said the drink driving laws were designed to let people have ‘one or two’ drinks without stopping them from driving.

The prosecutor told the court it was up to Wells to make sure she was under the limit.

“The onus is on the defendant to not consume alcohol if she believes she is going to drive,” she said.

“There is a graded system, but I don’t believe she can rely on the result of a test she did at a hotel. The fact she tested herself meant she had some belief she might be over.”

Ms Denes accepted Mr Cochrane’s argument that Wells’s ‘moral culpability’ in drinking and driving had been relatively low.

However, she said the fact Wells’s blood alcohol level had soared so high worked against her.

She fined Wells $500, plus $76 court costs, and banned her from driving for six months.

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